Five Things I like about the 2022 Federal Budget

Ene Underwood
5 min readApr 9, 2022
For the first time in recent memory, the Federal Budget highlights affordable housing front and centre.

When it comes to federal, provincial and municipal budgets, I confess my pattern has been to expect to be disappointed. Thus, the 2022 federal budget took me by surprise with housing emerging as a centrepiece of a far-reaching, post-COVID “Plan to Grow our Economy and Make Life More Affordable” Rather than feeling disappointed, I was left feeling energized and cautiously hopeful.

From a Habitat for Humanity GTA perspective, I’m not entirely sure there is a lot in there to meaningfully propel our work going forward. Nonetheless, it sets a tone that I hope will be followed by Ontario’s provincial and municipal governments once we get past the pre-election silly season. What follows are five things I like about this budget.

  1. Treating the Housing Crisis like a Crisis

For the first time in recent memory, the challenge of affordable housing is front and centre in the federal budget. Over the past two decades, housing prices in Canada increased at close to two times the rate of prices in the U.K. and France, and a dizzying three times the rate of prices in the U.S. Unquestionably, we have a crisis and it is past time to not just call it a crisis but to treat it like one.

A crisis demands decisive, purposeful action and a tolerance for imperfect solutions. It also requires a willingness to make financial investments beyond what would be defensible in calmer times. We saw that kind of response to COVID-19. To the fires in B.C. To the unimaginable horrors of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There are signs of this crisis mentality in the federal budget, both in the magnitude of investments and in the willingness to experiment with bold, and in some cases, time-limited measures.

2. Addressing our Housing Supply Shortfall

As it stands, Canada has the lowest supply of homes among the G7 countries. Through my work as a member of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, we made it clear that sweeping reforms are needed to change that. It is encouraging to see the federal budget similarly shining a light on the supply shortfall and setting a bold target of doubling housing construction over the next decade.

Recognizing that the coalface of housing supply is at the municipal level, the budget proposes the new $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund to fast-track housing development — including affordable housing — by creating the financial incentive for municipalities. Moreover, with billions of federal money flowing into infrastructure funding, kudos to the feds for tying access to that funding to increases in housing supply by municipalities, provinces and territories vying for the funds.

3. Creating Hope and Tangible Support for Homeownership

The budget acknowledges the Canadian reality: homeownership remains an aspiration held by the vast majority of Canadians. And well it should. Homeownership has a great track record of providing families with stability and sense of place. Homeownership is part of the fabric of stable communities. Homeownership is a proven pathway for families and communities to build wealth, enabling the next generation to have better opportunities than the generation before.

The budget also gives voice to the other Canadian reality: if you were born in Canada before the 80s, chances are good that you have been able to buy a home; if you were born in or arrived in Canada after that, good luck.

That’s not fair. Opportunities shouldn’t be tied to when you were born, when you arrived or the colour of your skin.

There aren’t any silver bullets in the budget to restore fairness in access to homeownership — but there are some good intentions with new programs that may help, at least a bit.

The Tax-Free First Home Savings Account is a welcome effort to help Canadians save for a down payment and will likely be one of the most long-lasting legacies from this government. To be more impactful, however, Ottawa would be wise to recognize that it should not use a one-size-fits-all approach; having $40,000 for a down payment in Trois Rivieres where the average home price is around $200,000 is helpful but not so much in Toronto where the average is $1.2 million. Instead, these credits should be adjusted — and ceilings lifted — to reflect the needs of the local housing market. The same thinking should apply to the doubling of the first-time homebuyer’s tax credit and extending the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.

4. Injecting a little Innovation

Tackling the housing affordability crisis requires a multi-pronged approach to create new homes across the housing spectrum. Government investment of cash is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient –experimenting and innovating are also key parts of the formula, especially when it comes to addressing the huge shortfall in affordable housing.

As anyone who has tried to get into a co-operative development will tell you, it is close to impossible to get in. No surprise. These communities provide quality, affordable housing to residents who are shareholders in the corporation — but construction of new co-op housing ground to a halt about the same time that Mr. Dressup retired. Hence, it is good to see Ottawa embracing a “what’s old is new again” approach by reallocating $1.5 million in funds to enable the largest investment in building new co-op housing in over 30 years. There is also a new Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit to provide families up to $7,500 to cover the costs of building a secondary suite for a senior or adult with a disability. This will be welcome news in particular for multi-generational and immigrant families where grandparents remain a part of the family nucleus.

5. Treating Homes like Homes, Not Commodities

Critics of the housing supply debate point to all the new condos that continue to be built throughout the GTA. A substantial portion of these apartments end up being investment tools, in some cases flipped for a profit as soon as they are built and in some cases staying empty for years. And though some binge-worthy tv shows glamorize the idea of buying a fixer-upper and flipping it, the proliferation of speculative investment, renovation and sale of homes and residential buildings has added fuel to the fire that has made Canadian housing so unaffordable.

Changing tax rules to discourage flipping and introducing a two-year ban on residential property purchases by non-Canadians are unlikely to put out the fire, but they at least reflect a concerted effort to get the bucket brigade going. Similarly, the planned federal review of the role of large corporate players and the dynamic of housing as an asset class is laudable and overdue.

In listening to interviews with Minister Freeland, she makes no claims that this budget will be a panacea for the complex, multifaceted housing crisis that ails this country. She is certainly right about that. A lot more will be required. For us at Habitat for Humanity GTA, we’re not sure this budget directly helps us in our work to enable some of the hardest-working citizens in our communities realize the stability, possibility and financial independence of a home of their own. We’ll be staying the course in pushing all levels of government to do more to support pathways to homeownership — but this budget sets a tone and an ambition that we can fully sign on to.



Ene Underwood

Ene is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity GTA, which helps working families build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership.